There are endless ways you can research for a new play going into production – reading books, listening to music or diving into old archives. However, the latest process from inside the Faces in the Crowd rehearsal process takes place… in the kitchen!
This week Artistic Director Ellen McDougall and Designer Bethany Wells took off their theatre hats and put on their aprons, when they rose to the challenge of preparing the traditional Mexican Christmas food tamales.
A tamale (pronounced tam-a-lay) is a traditional Mexican-American dish, made of a corn-based dough, steamed in a leaf or a dried corn husk, which is often later used as the plate. Tamales can be filled with meat, cheese, fruit, beans, vegetables, chilli, whatever you like really.
Ellen and Beth chose vegetarian tamales and here’s how they did it…
STEP 1: INGREDIENTS
Their tamale adventure began with a trip to Mestizo Mexican Market on Warren Street where they bought some specialist ingredients, including, you guessed it, preserved cactus!
Their list of ingredients was:
- 5 cups of corn flour
- 12 tablespoons vegetable shortening (e.g. Trex or Atora)
- 1 x onions (white and red)
- green chillis
- sweet red peppers
- preserved cactus
- black beans
- tinned tomatoes
- spring onions
- sweetcorn including husks
STEP 2: THE HUSKS
They unwrapped the husks from the corn, then soaked the husks in a pan of boiling water for 30-60 minutes until soft.
STEP 3: THE DOUGH
They mixed the corn flour with the vegetable shortening (an alternative is water, vegetable stock and olive oil). The dough should feel moisty and sticky. It’s optional to add cumin, thyme or chilli oil here and don’t forget to add a decent helping of salt!
STEP 4: THE FILLING
You can use anything you like to make a tasty filling. Ellen and Bethany chose to fry tomatoes, spring onions, garlic, spices and sugar – and then added the corn kernels, cactus and peppers. Add salt and pepper to taste. They fried up some black beans separately with vegetable stock and tomatoes.
STEP 5: THE ASSEMBLING
They drained the corn husks and spread them out flat on the table. They placed about 3 tablespoons (or a medium sized ball) of dough into the middle of the husk and pressed it into a rectangle.
They topped the dough with the filling, beans and a few crumbles of fresh cheese sprinkled on top. Then they placed another 2 tablespoons of dough on top.
They folded the husks over the filling then turned the pointed ends up to the middle before tying them tight with a piece of husk so the filling didn’t leak.
STEP 6: THE STEAMING
They positioned a colander above a pot of boiling water and filled it with a layer of the tamales (you may want to cook in batches). The tamales should not be touching the water – only the steam cooks them. Cover them with a tea towel and steam for 30-40 minutes, adding water when necessary.
STEP 7: THE EATING!
They served the tamales warm with various Mexican sides.
Let us know if you have a go at making the tamales by tweeting us @gatetheatre.